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Rediff.com  » Sports » Manchester City maintain grip atop EPL

Manchester City maintain grip atop EPL

November 20, 2011 08:36 IST

Free-scoring Manchester City maintained their grip at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 home win over Newcastle United on Saturday to take their goals tally to 42 from 12 games.

Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero scored penalties and Micah Richards was also on target to condemn third-placed Newcastle to their first defeat of the season and leave City as the only unbeaten side in the top flight.

City have 34 points from a possible 36 this season and have piled up a staggering goal difference of 31 to lead second-placed Manchester United by five points.

The champions did enough to earn a 1-0 victory at Swansea City in the late kickoff -- their third consecutive one-goal win since their 6-1 drubbing by City at Old Trafford.

Javier Hernandez scored the only goal in the 11th minute in South Wales from a cross by Welshman Ryan Giggs to inflict a first home defeat on the Premier League newcomers.

Arsenal maintained their improvement with a fifth consecutive league victory thanks to Robin van Persie's double in a 2-1 win at Norwich City, which moved the London club above Liverpool into sixth place with 22 points.

Liverpool (19 points) face fourth-placed Chelsea (22) on Sunday, with Tottenham Hotspur (22), who are fifth, at home to eighth-placed Aston Villa on Monday.

Bottom club Wigan Athletic ended a run of eight successive league defeats in a 3-3 home draw with fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers, who equalised with an injury-time penalty despite playing most of the second half with 10 men.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez labelled Blackburn's second goal "scandalous" after Rovers forward Yakubu appeared to use his hand to restart play from a corner.

Bolton Wanderers remained in the relegation zone after a 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion but Everton eased away from the bottom three courtesy of a 2-1 home win over fellow strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Promoted Queens Park Rangers won 3-2 at Stoke City while Sunderland drew 0-0 at home to Fulham.

UNSTOPPABLE CITY

While the 194.9 million pounds English record loss Manchester City reported for the 2010/11 financial year on Friday highlighted how much their route to the top of the league has cost, the payback is that they look unstoppable.

Roberto Mancini could again afford to juggle his squad but his selection dealt with Newcastle relatively easily.

"I'll make no bones about it, they are the best side we've played by some distance, very very powerful," Newcastle manager Alan Pardew told reporters.

City's goal tally after 12 games is the best in the top flight since Tottenham Hotspur netted 44 in their first dozen games in 1963 but Mancini warned against getting carried away with the idea his side will stroll to the title.

"As a team, we're strong now but we should think the season is long, probably there will be a difficult moment and for this reason it is important now if we can score goals, if we can win games in a row, it is very important," he told reporters.

Newcastle looked set to reach the break on level terms until Ryan Taylor blocked Yaya Toure's shot with his hands and Balotelli side-footed home the resulting penalty.

On the stroke of halftime, Richards, a rare home-grown player at the world's richest club, nipped in to seize on a loose ball and double City's advantage.

Richards was involved again in the 72nd minute when he was bundled over in the area and Sergio Aguero stroked the spot kick past Tim Krul. Dan Gosling got a late consolation for the visitors.

While City cannot stop scoring, fierce rivals United are chiselling out wins as they try and keep pace.

They were never at their best against a Swansea side whose passing game impressed United manager Alex Ferguson but rarely looked troubled at the back apart from one let-off in the first half when Scott Sinclair mis-kicked in front of goal.

"We were comfortable against a team who keep the ball well," Ferguson said. "We showed concentration and that is what we needed because a few weeks ago that was the criticism we were getting."

Arsenal had to come from a goal down at promoted Norwich after a defensive howler from Per Mertesacker allowed Steve Morison to fire the home side ahead after 16 minutes.

Dutchman Van Persie equalised with a tap-in after 26 minutes and struck again before the hour with a deft finish to take his league tally this term to 13 and his calendar year total to 31.

"Robin is exceptional but we all know within the club that he's an exceptional player," manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports. "Sometimes, what was in the way was the fact he was injured. Since he plays, he shows just how good he is."

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